CSC-NS Program Review
This Program Review was conducted between December 15, 2014 and March 6, 2015 by Makes Sense Consultants for the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia.
This Program Review is intended to assess the initial impact of Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia (Community Sector Council) activities on the non-profit sector in Nova Scotia. The Community Sector Council has been in existence only since December, 2012, and staffed since March, 2013, which is insufficient time for fundamental shift within the sector. It is possible, however, to identify initial impact and perceptions of the potential role of the Community Sector Council within the sector.
The consultants adopted three primary techniques in the Program Review: a review of background documents; an on-line survey; and confidential interviews with 21 individuals who are familiar with the Community Sector Council and its objectives, or who have participated in training offered by the Community Sector Council.
The Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia was established following extensive research by and consultation within the non-profit sector to bring non-profit and voluntary organizations together to help them meet the needs of Nova Scotia’s citizens and communities and to work collaboratively to find innovative solutions to emerging and existing sector issues. The Community Sector Council was created in December, 2012 with a mandate to strengthen the sector through collaboration. The goals are:
- To improve human resources planning;
- To improve strategies for attracting and retaining staff and volunteers;
- To increase access to training opportunities;
- To increase a sense of identity as a sector and better capacity to form partnerships and act collectively.
The Community Sector Council received funding for just over two years from two sources within the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE): the Sector Council program provided funding for 27 months (January 2013-March 2015) and the Voluntary Sector Division (since moved to the Department of Community Services) provided start-up funds for 25 months (March 2013-March 2015), as a one-time only grant. This funding has allowed the Community Sector Council to engage staff and establish a strong regional network of six convenors throughout the Province.
With the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year on March 31, the initial funding agreements will expire. The Community Sector Council has been assured of continued financial support through the Sector Council program, but the support provided by the Voluntary Sector Division, which supported the regional structure, will end.
The consultants found significant support for the Community Sector Council, especially for the strong regional presence through the convenors. The Community Sector Council has established significant presence and credibility within the sector through the delivery of high quality and relevant training programs, especially in human resources management. This is a valuable base from which to move to the strategic mandate of providing opportunities for the sector to engage in the collaborative definition of its vision and role in Nova Scotia’s social, cultural and economic future.
Across the province, the visibility of the Community Sector Council rests largely with the six regional convenors, who have maintained effective communications within their communities. The core funding available through the Sector Council Program does not pay for the regional services.
Financial sustainability is the most critical issue facing the Community Sector Council. With the end of a significant portion of the funding from the provincial government, the organization is challenged to find alternate sources of funding. This is especially important in light of the fact that much of the Community Sector Council strength and effectiveness is perceived to be in its regional structure.
The labour market challenges facing the non-profit sector are complex and will require full deployment of the Community Sector Council’s convening role to ensure that the sector is fully engaged in the conversation and the eventual resolution. The questions of succession planning, and retirement provisions for long term employees in non-profit organizations become more pressing with the passage of time.
The Community Sector Council should begin to develop opportunities for the sector to engage in the collaborative definition of its vision and role in Nova Scotia’s social, cultural and economic future. The following recommendations are intended to assist the Community Sector Council establish the basis for an effective and productive strategic engagement with the non-profit sector across the Province.
1. Given the importance of the regional structure to the Community Sector Council’s visibility and credibility within the sector, it is imperative that strong regional representation be maintain The regional convenors can be strengthened in their roles by:
- Employing the website to support regional communications
- Establishing regional councils of non-profits to foster community support for convenors, and to ensure inclusivity in the Community Sector Council processes.
2. Financial sustainability must be achiev The Community Sector Council is urged to consider the full range of available options for improving financial sustainability, including:
- Ensuring budget priority is given to the regional convening function
- Facilitating access to training from non-Community Sector Council sources
- Considering sliding scale fees for membership and training
- Reviewing funding relationships with host organizations.
3. Partnerships are vital components of the financial sustainability plan, as well as being critical to achieving a broader understanding of the non-profit sector and its role in the health of communiti It is recommended that the Community Sector Council develop and implement a partnership framework that identifies:
- Potential partners within the non-profit sector to enhance collaborative initiatives to address the key issues, challenges and opportunities affecting the sector
- Clear objectives and priorities, supported by practical strategies, to recruit partners from the private sector and academia
- A government relations strategy to support partnerships between government departments and the non-profit sector.
4. The Community Sector Council can build on the success and strength of the human resource management training to begin the process of resolving the questions of succession planning, recruitment and retention, and the establishment of benefits and pensions for non-profit sector employee It is vital that voices from the sector be recognized in a process that is focussed on achieving a resolution and an action plan on these urgent issues.